• 02 September 2021
  • 10 min read

My Bumpy Journey To Becoming A Cardiology Specialist Nurse

  • Wendy Wardle
    Cardiology Nurse
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
  • 0
  • 425

"My role is an ongoing challenge, medicine is a dynamic profession, you have to be prepared to adapt, learn and never forget the patient is someone’s relative."

Wendy Wardle has a wealth of experience in nursing across the board. In this piece, she talks us through her own irregular journey to becoming a Cardiology Nurse and gives some tips on how you could do the same.

Topics covered in this article

Why I Decided To Start A Career In Nursing In 1993

Beginning My Nursing Training

How Did My Expectations Stack Up To The Reality As A Newly Qualified Nurse?

The Next Step

Why Primary Care Wasn't For Me

What I Learned About Nursing Working In The Community

Why I Decided To Go Back To Education Aged 49

Why I Decided To Start A Career In Nursing In 1993

I’ll start at the beginning.

By the early 1990’s I had two small children, a partner and a home, I was 22 / 23 years of age.

A brief conversation with my Health Visitor about my aspirations when leaving school, prompted an exchange of ideas and signposting.

While at school, I muddled along, scraped through exams.

Unfortunately, unless you were a complete genius or needed specific learning support my secondary school was not renowned for those of us that were somewhere in the middle.

I knew I wanted to do something that would provide a secure future for my children along with job security.

This appeared to be a big ask having minimal examination grades and limited life experience.

My Health Visitor gave me a booklet from the local Nursing school promoting project 2000, together with a Nursing Tutor’s contact details.

To be honest, I put it to one side and carried on as normal.

I eventually read the booklet.

The booklet suggested the ‘new’ Nurse training hoped to encourage people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds into Nursing.

There were also alternative routes into the training.

I kept thinking about ‘nursing’ what is it, I had no ‘caring’ experience.

My only contact with hospitals was in primary school, visiting my grandmother.

I remember sitting wondering what the Nurses done all day.

Weeks passed and Project 2000 kept coming to mind – was it for me, would I be eligible to apply.

I bit the bullet and contacted the Nursing Tutor.

She was very encouraging and suggested we meet to talk through options.

The tutor was very positive about the course, the support available and the ‘future’ of healthcare and Nursing.

She advised I would need to pass an entrance exam and supplied me with information about what this entailed.

I applied, and was offered a date for the entrance exam, which I passed with flying colours.

Next stage was an interview – I’d never had an interview in my life.

Again, I reached out to the Nursing Tutor and my Health Visitor. Both offered ideas and advice about what to expect.

The day of the interview came around, the panel consisted of two nurse tutors and a ward sister.

To be honest I cannot remember what was asked, or what my response was, but I must have done alright as I was offered a place.

The nurse tutor who I initially spoke to, who was also on the interview panel and the ward sister became colleagues and sources of constant guidance and support.

Although both retired now.

So, in September 1993 I arrived at my local school of nursing to begin my training.

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Beginning My Nursing Training

My intake was mainly mature students, from various walks of life.

The initial few weeks were a whirlwind of introductions, timetables, and juggling college and childcare.

Weeks turned into months and I found my routine.

My first piece of academic work was terrible, but with support from the tutors and my peers I somehow passed.

Some placements were very well organised and very keen and encouraging of us P2000 students.

Others not so much, I spent 8 weeks on an elderly care ward – on reflection I think this was my worst placement.

The staff were unsupportive.

One episode stands out – early shift, I went to attend to my allocated patients. The first gentleman had been incontinent overnight.

The bed was soaked, he was clearly distressed and uncomfortable.

I suggested a bath.

However, when I asked the nurse in charge of the team her response was ‘it’s blue team’s bath day, that patients in in the green team.

He will just have to have a bed bath’.

I reflected on this situation with a tutor.

I learned this was viewed as an outdated method of working.

As students we were encouraged to work holistically.

A felt disappointed. I believe, it remains difficult to change longstanding, habitual types of action within the profession.

A placement within the mental health service, was a much more positive experience.

My mentor suggested ‘all of us are there for a single purpose, regardless of our job title, that purpose was for the benefit of the patient’.

This idea was further reinforced on a surgical ward, where I experienced my first expected death.

My mentor at that time explained that she thought of the patients as ‘her relatives’ so how would she wanted them to be cared for, communicated with and supported.

This has stayed with me throughout my career and is something I say to junior staff or students.

Over the three years of my training, most of my placements were surgical wards – which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I remember ‘final results’ day.

I was on urology.

I collected my results and I recall returning to the ward, but not feeling any different to before I knew I’d passed.

I was waiting for some sort of lightbulb moment – I sometimes think I’m still waiting. I was now a qualified nurse – Diploma in higher education (adult nursing).

How Did My Expectations Stack Up To The Reality As A Newly Qualified Nurse?

My first post as a qualified nurse was within acute medicine.

Vacancies were few and far between at that time.

To be honest I struggled initially.

The ward team was very established, the day-to-day routine was rigid, and the hierarchy was a challenge.

Changes came as the ward sister retired, new ways of working were trialled and the trust was to be the first in the UK to build a new hospital under the private finance initiative system.

In 2000, moving into the new hospital the wards were identified by speciality.

My speciality was cardio-respiratory, this was pre-determined by the senior nursing team.

The trust at this time were keen to develop staff within each speciality.

Funding was offered for specific courses, depending on need.

It was decided that patients in hospital following an MI missed out on education and support if the admission was over the weekend period.

I was nominated to complete ‘heart manual facilitator course, which would be utilised at weekend, bank holidays.

This sparked my interest in cardiology as a speciality.

Over the next few years, I developed a cardiology link Nurse role.

Which involved teaching peers and students basic cardiology.

A secondment to coronary care further reinforced my interest.

The Next Step

Over the next few years, the trust signed up to a project led by the north west strategic health authority.

The project was to evaluate care and discharge of five specific conditions.

Myocardial infraction and heart failure were relevant to my ward area.

The trust was failing heart failure care and discharges.

The project required data gathered during admission and on discharge, which was then presented to the other trusts who had signed up to the project.

I was nominated by the matron at the time, as she recognised my interest and passion for cardiology.

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Do you have any questions about becoming a nurse?

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At the initial session, attended by all the trusts involved, my trust was at the bottom of the league table.

At that session many of the other trusts were represented by numerous members of staff, from my trust there was myself and a colleague from the audit department.

Somehow this fuelled my determination to be better.

I also recognised the networking opportunities linking with colleagues from other trusts.

Eventually at the final presentation, the trust was within the top five, I was nominated for an award in recognition of my drive.

This led to me working on a telehealth project with community heart failure patients.

Unfortunately, the project did not receive support from local GPs.

In 2008 I was offered permanent hours with the community heart failure team as a result of the project, and for a while I split my hours between coronary care and community heart failure.

The community role required further study – heart failure module and nonmedical prescribing. The heart failure module was interesting, the speakers were active within their role – still practicing.

The lectures were engaging, although again I struggled with academic writing. However, with support I passed – Management of chronic heart failure (level six).

Why Primary Care Wasn't For Me

The non-medical prescribing was one of my worst times in my career.

The tutor was unsupportive, the feedback on any work submitted was negative.

One tutorial stands out and in fact still causes me to feel emotional, even as I’m writing this.

I was told I could not construct a sentence, and perhaps I should rethink my career choice.

This was a massive blow to my confidence and following a long and difficult discussion with my team lead, it was agreed I would not re -submit the work.

I did continue in my role, but I was conscious of the negative effect this episode had going forward.

This was somewhat countered by education sessions led by me to other community teams.

Evaluation and feedback were always positive.

What I Learned About Nursing Working In The Community

I realised I enjoyed sharing knowledge and communicating my findings to peers and colleagues.

I continued to develop links with GPs, and other community colleagues. I also developed and maintained relationships with colleagues within the acute trust.

Why I Decided To Go Back To Education Aged 49

Aged 49 In 2016, the acute trust established a heart failure nursing team.

I was encouraged by one of the cardiologists to apply, I did and was successful. We were a small team – three wholetime equivalents.

We had nothing just a small room in cardiology outpatients, unending enthusiasm and support from the wider cardiology team.

We were all encouraged to develop to ensure we are offering the best to our patients.

With this support I felt I wanted to do something.

A discussion with the clinical lead for cardiology led me to apply for a post graduate diploma in cardiology.

At the ripe old age of 51 I completed the course and passed.

I strongly believe this is down to enthusiasm and support from my current team.

The lectures were delivered by cardiologist who were currently practising. They understood the challenges we faced.

The academic writing was somehow more manageable – this was in the form of reflective accounts of my practice and competencies.

Within my role now I refer patients for advanced management, complex devices, transplant assessment.

I review undiagnosed patients, plan investigations and report results.

So as I sit writing this I want to encourage people to speak to other Nurses – if this is the career you think is for you.

My role is an ongoing challenge, medicine is a dynamic profession, you have to be prepared to adapt, learn and never forget the patient is someone’s relative.

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Do you have any questions about becoming a nurse?

Ask Wendy below

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About the author

  • Wendy Wardle
    Cardiology Nurse

After qualifying in 1996, I started working as a staff nurse on an acute medical ward. I continued to work in medicine, but the ward evolved to a step down unit from coronary care. My next role was another dual role between coronary care and community heart failure team, this has evolved to my current role. I've completed training up to masters level, and within my current role I review patients from diagnosis to advanced management.

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  • Wendy Wardle
    Cardiology Nurse

About the author

  • Wendy Wardle
    Cardiology Nurse

After qualifying in 1996, I started working as a staff nurse on an acute medical ward. I continued to work in medicine, but the ward evolved to a step down unit from coronary care. My next role was another dual role between coronary care and community heart failure team, this has evolved to my current role. I've completed training up to masters level, and within my current role I review patients from diagnosis to advanced management.

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